MSC Poesia

MSC Cruises

Ship information

MSC Poesia

About MSC Poesia

Launched in 2008, 92,600-ton, 3,000-passenger MSC Poesia is the third of Italy-based MSC Cruises' four Musica-class vessels.

Tastefully exuberant decor -- brass handrails on the staircases, marble countertops at reception, a waterfall in the atrium, twinkling lights on the ceiling in the theater -- means the ship is elegant but not boring. Its lounges (particularly the Zebra Bar, Il Grappolo d'Oro wine bar and Hitchcock Lounge) are charming, and the well-appointed, color-splashed cabins make it feel more like an upscale hotel than a cruise ship. Of course, you'll still find the standard cruise-ship offerings like pools, nightly entertainment and kids' activities.

While the ship is lovely, what really sets it apart from other mainstream mega-ships is this: MSC is an unabashedly European line, and the approach to service, onboard vibe and passenger habits reflect that. North Americans shouldn't expect the usual, proactive service which many cruisers are accustomed to finding on Carnival, NCL and Royal Caribbean. While everyone, from cabin stewards to dining room waiters, is helpful and friendly, don't be surprised if you don't learn their names without asking or if you have to specifically request certain U.S. staples like in-cabin ice. You also shouldn't expect to be coddled; although all staff members we encountered aimed to please, we found that it wasn't the norm for them to anticipate our every need.

Poesia splits its time between Northern Europe and South American itineraries. You'll still find many international passengers, even when the ship sails from Fort Lauderdale, so expect all messages -- everything from muster drill instructions and daily programs to announcements from the cruise director -- to be delivered in at least five different languages: English, Italian, Spanish, French and German. (Note: During Caribbean sailings, currency onboard is the U.S. dollar. When the ship sails in Europe, the euro is used.)

Entertainment, some of which missed its mark, has to transcend various language barriers, so you won't find comedians or other similar performers. However, acrobats and jugglers achieve the balance flawlessly, and our jaws dropped more than once at their talents.

In general, the European crowd seems to take life at a much more relaxed pace. In that vein, dinners are eaten bit more leisurely, and portions are smaller than Americans might be used to, but that just means you'll leave feeling pleasantly full, rather than disgustingly stuffed. Plus, you can always ask for seconds, and the waitstaff will oblige. Another nice touch is that ship staff do their best to seat you with other English-speakers, so you won't have to fumble through meals relying on nods and gestures.

MSC offers excellent rates and deep discounts, but anyone expecting a Carnival-type atmosphere will be disappointed. It seemed the most notable takeaway from our time on Poesia was that people either love it, or they hate it, and we met a lot who fell into each camp. Some weren't happy with the service. Others disliked that the announcements took five times as long, due to the language issue. And still others complained about all menu items that weren't hot dogs and fries.

If you're looking for an affordable sailing with an international flare without having to travel too far, this might just be the ship for you. However, it's important to understand what you can expect. Overall, cruises on Poesia aren't bad; they're just different.

Cabins

MSC Poesia has 15 cabin types available

Inside Cabins

3 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

3 Inside types to choose from

Inside Cabins

3 Inside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

4 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

4 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

4 Outside types to choose from

Outside Cabins

4 Outside types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

7 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

7 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

7 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

7 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

7 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

7 Balcony types to choose from

Balcony Cabins

7 Balcony types to choose from

Suite Cabins

1 Suite types to choose from

Deck Plans

12 deck images available

Activities and Entertainment

By far the most standout and popular entertainment are the shows that appeared nightly in the Teatro Carlo Felice on Decks 6 and 7, forward. If the theater itself isn't awe-inspiring enough (purple carpeting and chairs with glittering stage curtains and shimmering ceiling lights that look like stars), the performances do a great job of dropping jaws. On two nights, we left scratching our heads, and the same group of singers and dancers did get somewhat tiresome after a week, but variety shows featuring jugglers, acrobats and the like were flat-out breathtaking. (On one night, during noticeably rough seas, one acrobat fell from a particularly high perch, dusted herself off and went right back to work to the applause of a gasping audience.) If nothing else, MSC does a great job of designing its entertainment around various languages; for example, you won't find comedians onboard, as they would have to perform in several different tongues.

Each night, cruisers can relax at Il Grappolo D'Oro with glasses of wine and mellow piano music. When it comes to dancing, the Le Rendez-Vous, Giada and Smeraldo Bars and Bar dei Poeti (Decks 5 and 6) offer well-known favorites, while the Zebra Bar (Deck 6) features international tunes. The Pigalle Lounge (Deck 7) also hosts Latin dancing and karaoke on select nights throughout each sailing.

We found the Hitchcock Lounge on Deck 7 to be one of the most underused and serene locations onboard. It's themed after famed horror guru Alfred Hitchcock, and it's bedecked with comfy green-leather couches, dark wood accents and its own bar. Although this was designed as the ship's cigar lounge, we never saw it used as such, and it lacked the typical smell of a place frequently used for smoking.

Younger passengers will find a DJ playing pop and hip-hop music in the ship's S32 Disco on Deck 14 (Pascoli Deck), aft. Besides the Zebra Bar, which (as you'd expect) looks like a zebra has been deconstructed then reconstructed, the disco is the hippest place onboard, with silver geometric seating, industrial-looking walls and tables, and crazy green-and-black geometric carpeting.

Other nighttime entertainment features dance lessons, games (trivia, scavenger hunts, hula-hoop contests, couples games) and movies on the pool deck. Themed events on our sailing included "Grease," "Toga Night" and "Tropical Party."

Deck 7 is home to Casino Royal, where cruisers will find a black and red theme with starred carpeting and crystal chandeliers. When it comes to game offerings, roulette, slots, craps and Easy Stud poker are the order of the day. Texas Hold'em is offered in the Poker Room throughout the sailing. Stairs lead down to the Zebra Bar directly below, but there is also a bar located in the casino itself.

Hourlong wine-tastings are offered during the day at Il Grappolo D'Oro wine bar on Deck 7 (Manzoni Deck, aft, port side) for an $18 fee, which includes samples of six different wines and appetizers (prosciutto, ham, cheese, breadsticks) with which a sommelier will instruct you to pair them. Our sommelier was extremely knowledgeable, and we think it was worth the price, whether you're a wine expert or know nothing but have always wanted to learn. A mini-tasting (three wines) is also available for $9.90.

Each morning, ship staff offer walking, stretching and aerobics. Throughout the day, passengers will find plenty of other activities to keep them busy, including Italian lessons; spa, culinary and cocktail seminars; bingo; casino gaming lessons; lectures on topics like Caribbean history and pirates; and wacky pool-deck contests (think sexy legs). Times and locations vary, but a complete list can be found in each day's program.

MSC also mixes themes throughout some of its sailings. Our voyage also happened to be a Baseball Greats-themed voyage. Although these are hosted each month throughout the ship's winter Caribbean season, they are unadvertised. The likes of Ken Griffey, Sr., Stan Bahnsen and several others led pitching contests, told stories and signed autographs for free during special sessions throughout the itinerary. (Imagine our surprise when we ended up sharing a cab with Art Shamsky on our way back from the beach in Jamaica.)

Also onboard were members of a Florida-based clown college, who were in attendance for a clown wedding on the ship. On one day, they offered a clowning seminar in one of the lounges, where they made balloon animals and passed out red clown-nose stickers to excited children (and adults).

MSC offers a decent variety of shore excursions, but they may not be quite as active as the ones you'd find on other lines. Some of the ones on our sailing included typical sightseeing tours, glass-bottom boat rides, zip-lining, snorkeling and horseback-riding, among other things. Prices seemed to be about the industry average.

Dining

Dinner is served in traditional set-seating style in two main dining rooms -- Il Palladio and Le Fontane -- which each seat more than 700 diners at a time and offer identical menus. Passengers will have assigned tablemates at either an early seating (6 p.m.) or late seating (8:30 p.m.). Ship staff do their best to seat passengers according to nationality, so there should be no awkward language barriers while you're trying to make small talk. Tables range from two-tops to those that can accommodate nine. (Nine-tops can accommodate 10 people if necessary, but it's awfully close quarters.)

Le Fontane, located aft on Deck 5 (Petrarca Deck), is decorated in blue and dark-wood accents, offset by cream-colored walls that offer sea views through large, round windows. Interior walls are painted with European landscapes depicting fountains and monuments. White tablecloths and flowers adorn the tables, which offer various arrangements, including booth seating.

Il Palladio, positioned aft on Deck 6 (Dante Deck), is mostly red in color, accented with light-wood pillars, brass railings and gray marble. Seating is similar to that found in Le Fontane, and large, round windows offer sweeping views. One note: be careful of random, single steps at various locations. They're difficult to see, and we saw several folks trip on them each night.

Menus (your waiter will bring you one in English) change daily, but they always include the following categories: appetizers (calamari, fruit plate), soup & salad (tomato seafood soup, cobb salad), main courses (linguini, steak, risotto, salmon), and desserts & fruit (gelato, apple crumble, lemon cheesecake, baba). There is a decent mix of pasta, meat and fish dishes, as well as vegetarian options, so there's something for everyone. Generally, everything we tried on our sailing was fantastic. Waiters were attentive, efficient and friendly, but service wasn't excessive or over-the-top like it can be on some American ships.

Dinners are leisurely, and portions are smaller than Americans might be used to, but it makes for a better experience (and less regret, as you're not as likely to overindulge). If you'd like seconds, waiters will happily comply. Sometimes themed nights are offered; on our sailing, the third night was "Festa Italiana," which offered Italian food and decorations.

Casual, open-seating dining is available daily in Le Fontane for breakfast and lunch. Times vary according to the ship's port schedule, but they are listed in each day's program. Lunch items included mozzarella sticks, crab cakes, minestrone soup, Greek salad, Indian vegetable curry, veal parmigiana and rather tasty chicken paninis. Desserts included chocolate brownies and New York cheesecake.

Villa Pompeiana, aft on Deck 13 (Foscolo Deck), is the ship's buffet. It's open daily for early-riser breakfast, followed by regular breakfast, lunch and dinner. (Times vary and appear in each day's program.) This venue offers everything from pancakes, bacon and omelets to a deli station and pizza. Of course that's in addition to other standard buffet items like chicken, beef, pasta and desserts. You'll also find fruit, a salad bar and a beverage station. One section of the buffet is also open late at night for drinks and snacks. You'll find premade deli sandwiches and a rotating list of treats like crepes and ice cream throughout each sailing.

Kaito, the ship's fee-extra restaurant, specializes in sushi. Menu offerings are priced a la carte, and for a total of $18.50, we scored a cucumber roll, a generous portion of teriyaki chicken and some green tea ice cream -- all of which were absolutely fantastic. There's a relaxing ambience, courtesy of calming sage-green marble, dark wood and calming music. Reservations are probably a good idea, but during our lunchtime visit, it wasn't crowded at all. It's open from noon to 4 p.m. for lunch and again from 6 to 11 p.m. for dinner daily.

At the ship's Mojito Bar, near the Cayo Levantado Pool on Deck 13, you'll find amazing Italian gelato. Although it's for-fee, the large (three scoops) will set you back less than $3. There are tons of flavors, but you'll find 16 available at any given time. (If you're a fruit fan, try the banana or pineapple. For nut-lovers, the pistachio and hazelnut are must-haves. And, for the less-adventurous, there are standard but tasty chocolate and vanilla options, too.) You'll also find soft-serve ice cream machines at both ends of the Lido Deck; oddly, they aren't available 'round-the-clock.

Room service, however, is available 24 hours a day, offering a limited selection of continental breakfast items, soups, salads and sandwiches. Soda, juice and alcoholic beverages can also be ordered; they will be charged according to the current in-cabin mini-bar pricing list. Room service is free on Caribbean sailings, but it's good to keep a few dollars on hand for tips. A small fee (roughly 3 to 5 euros, plus a 15 percent gratuity charge) applies to each room service item (excluding breakfast items) ordered on cruises in Europe.

Beverage packages come in four types: Cocktail Package (12 cocktails for $69.50), Peter Pan Package (10 milkshakes, mocktails, sodas or juices for $25), Teen Team Package (seven Red Bulls or mocktails for $45) and Large Draft Beer Package (14 14-ounce beers for $56.40). Although all-you-can-drink alcohol packages are no longer available for purchase once onboard, passengers can buy prepaid all-inclusive packages in advance for $61 per day. A 15 percent gratuity is added to all prices listed. If you normally drink a lot that's not water or iced tea, you'll come out ahead by signing up for one of these.