Embarkation in Port Everglades, ten minutes from the Ft Lauderdale airport, is stress-free. My superior balcony room is quite comfortable: two beds, a small couch, a desk … and ample closet and drawer space for two females who brought clothes for ten nights and ten days.
The luxury of having three days at sea during the 10 night Caribbean itinerary, with Puerto Rico, Martinique, Antigua, Dominica, St. Martin and the Bahamas as ports of call, was the incentive that motivated my booking. Additionally, I was attracted to the affordability of the cruise and the 13,000 square foot Balinese Spa’s extensive pampering menu of body and face treatments. I had the option of booking a basic cruise which included cabin, meals, a full schedule of daily activities and the nightly theatre extravaganza … or I could purchase a selection of reasonably priced add on packages; wines from around the world, dining privileges in the Specialty Kaito Sushi Bar and L”Obelisco Restaurant, and spa treatments.
First night at sea was a bit overwhelming, but once we got the lay of the ship, time on board was filled with memorable moments. We booked the second seating in Il Palladio, but also had the option of a more casual buffet breakfast, lunch and dinner in the Cafeteria where a new layout with more than one station serving the same dishes, eliminated lines and the usual feeding frenzy that often takes place on a cruise ship. There’s an impressive selection of hot and cold appetizers, salads with 24 toppings, soups and entrees … including home made pastas, an Ethnic Corner serving food from a different country each day, a Kid’s Corner (serving chicken wings, hot dogs and hamburgers (boxed to go) and fresh- from -the- oven pizzas, breads and deserts ….all under the masterful eye of Executive Sous Chef Ajay Bhatt and his team of 120 cooks.
On the days when I had lunch in the Cafeteria, rather than pile food on an oversized oval platter, I dined in courses, starting with the fabulous salad bar; moving on to a pasta course, protein and then desert. No need to rush through a meal, or eat bigger portions than I do at home, especially on the days at sea.
Service in the dining room was attentive and very personable. Our friendly caring server Edwin from Honduras treated us like family, as did maitre d’ s Mario, Fausto and Antonio who spent time at every table in an effort to please. If a dish didn’t live up to expectations, a smile brought you another, or if you had a request for a favorite dish, that could be arranged as well.
Most of the passengers were Americans; and I regret to report, many were difficult (if not impossible) to satisfy, expecting more personal attention than can be delivered on an affordable cruise. On the other hand, there are differences in eating habits and food preparations which need to be addressed. Alessandro Menegazzi, food & beverage manager tells me: “Everyday we have challenges. We have different nationalities whose diets and eating habits vary in extremes. In the US food is processed with lots of chemicals; the texture is different which makes it tender. MSC, an Italian Cruise Line, relatively new to the American market is working hard to meet these challenges by changing suppliers and adjusting kitchen preparations … and I am confident they will succeed with flying flavors.
Of course not every dish I ordered titillated my taste buds and fine tuned palate, but I learned early on to order my meats and fish grilled with sauces on the side, and personally, I enjoyed many satisfying meals in all the dining venues. The salmon with fennel sauce was delicious as was the surf and turf, cooked to medium rare expectations, and the wide array of delicious homemade pastas we devoured each night were worthy of praise, especially the scrumptious triico di mare pasta and risotto Maitre d’ hotel Gelu Bilea had the chef prepare as a special treat Considering how many meals I was served or helped myself to at the buffet, and taking into consideration the wide assortment of choices, my overall rating would be B+ for effort and B for results.
The three days at sea were wonderful. Between lectures, yoga, Pilates, meditation, and spa treatments, I zoned out on a quiet deck (on a lounge with a sun visor) mesmerized by the poetry in motion, clouds drifting by, and birds diving into the sea for their fresh catch of the day. My appreciation for fine wines was honed by attending Sommelier Luigi Di Fiore’s Wine Tasting Seminar. Luigi ran theSorrento delegation for 20 years (the largest Association in the world) and. has trained 50,000 sommeliers inItaly.
The Poesia is an elegantly appointed luxury ship with so many entertaining venues, including nightcaps in the Zebra Bar and the outdoor cinema, that I was tempted to stay onboard, but the ports of call offered the opportunity to swim in the sea, sample local island cuisines and shop.
On the last day at sea, the Starboard Performers: thirty brilliantly talented singers, dancers, acrobats and aerial artists from Ukraine, Hungary, Africa, Canada, Italy, Spain, Russia, Ethiopia, Mongolia and Moldavia assembled in the empty Carla Felice theatre at my request. .I had watched their shows in awe of the precision they had mastered and their graceful execution of daring and dangerous feats. It was very emotional and humbling to stand in front of them, and I was moved to tears as they shared their joy in working together. Peter Kovacs, a dancer from Hungary is the first to speak out: “we have passion for our job; it’s what keeps you going. I have an amazing show team”. David Paz Garcia: “when we play to the audience, different countries express their likes and dislikes. We give 100%, when the audience gives us good feed back, we give 120%. It’s a special life; not everyone can do it”. Fernando Ariel Dudka: “On a boat or on tour, a contract can be a wonderful experience or something you wish you didn’t have. It depends on the respect people have for each other. This is the most enjoyable group I have been with. I hope to have this feeling again, when I don’t know, but hopefully with this cast”.
For me, the Poesia delivered memorable experiences. It was a blessing to immerse my body and my mind in a Spa Vacation at Sea: where my cabin was cleaned and refreshed morning and night … my sheets changed daily, and towels twice a day … and my meals were prepared and served by a team of professionals who had trained around the world.
When it was time to say our final farewells, many hugs were exchanged and promises to meet again on another MSC Cruise. My compliments and thanks to: entire crew: Captain Francesco Veniero for 10 days of smooth cruising, Hotel Manager Neven Zounic for running a tight ship and the pleasure of your company, Mario, Fausto and Luigi … Guest Relations Manager Myra Petri for your award winning patience…. Executive Sous Chef Ajay Bhatt for your dedication … Food & Beverage Manager Alessandro Menegazzi for sharing … and to darling maitre d’ hotel Gelu Bilea for teaching me to always drizzle a little raw olive oil on pasta, regardless of the sauce..
I highly recommend my first (but hopefully not my last) MSC Cruise.
Come prepared to learn something you didn’t know, or a better appreciation of something you do, whether its line dancing, tennis or your knowledge and appreciation of wine pairing. Come happy, hungry and open to meeting new friends; enjoy fabulous shows that are a cross between Las Vegas, Cirque du Soleil and Broadway…have fun, discover the cultures and cuisines of the ports of call, shop, swim and be yourself. Come back to a clean cabin, without a worry in the world. Live La Dolce Vita, Italian Style, and the only baggage I recommend you bring are the ones your clothes are packed in.
I crossed the gangplank happy …and I disembarked even happier. Now that I realize I can live a pampered life on the Poesia for less than it costs to live in New York where I have to pay rent, shop, cook and clean, not to mention the cost of dining out, a massage or a Broadway show … I am ready to sublet my apartment and repack my bags. Hopefully, I will be on the April Trans-Atlantic crossing when the ship repositions in theMediterranean.
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Photos courtesy of MSC Cruises