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Cruise Ship Review

MSC Poesia - Ship Review provided by Cruise Critic

Sneak Preview

First Impressions

MSC Poesia, christened in Dover on April 5, 2008, is the ninth ship in the MSC fleet and the third in the Musica class, preceded by MSC Musica and MSC Orchestra. Having just sailed a Western Mediterranean cruise onboard the latter, we were surprised to board this newest member of the family and find as many differences as similarities -- even though it was built from the same blueprint.

What stands out most is that even though public spaces are generally repeated from one ship in a class to the next, MSC Cruises has created more distinct designs with each new-build in the Musica class. Walking across MSC Poesia's Deck 7, where most of the bars and lounges are situated, the varying color schemes, themes and fabrics create a true sense of having left one area and entered another. These distinctions, strongest on this third in class, give each space more of an exclusive feel and less of a "just another shipboard bar" impression.

In addition, the ship is simply beautiful. It's elegant and stylish, even more so than its predecessors -- and its competitors. The line is oft compared to Carnival Corporation's Costa Cruises, another Italian line with wild interiors (Costa relies on wacky Joe Farcus); MSC's increasingly "refined" look is one of the biggest differences we've noted to date between the two. The extra special touches are in the details: Black marble adds class to the intimate Poker Room off the Zebra Bar, a music and dance hall, and Australian green marble dresses up the spacious atrium with its three-deck-high waterfall.

Beyond that, you'll find the usual suspects (two swimming pools, four whirlpools, duty-free shops, a double-decker theater for the line's renowned nightly production shows) and some really well executed takes on traditional spaces (a wine tasting bar where you can also sample Italian antipasti, and a private gaming rooms for Vegas-style glam). And of course, like all of the line's ships, Italian culture is prevalent onboard and serves as an important part of the entire experience. "Poesia" is the Italian word for "poetry," and each deck is named after an Italian poet. Deck 6 is Dante, named after Dante Aligheri who penned "The Divine Comedy"; Deck 9, Ungaretti, celebrates Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.

Italian is spoken by many members of the staff, though an increasingly diverse passenger base also necessitates written and verbal communications in languages such as English, German, Spanish, French, and even Japanese.

Mealtime

There are four restaurants onboard MSC Poesia. The two main dining rooms -- Il Palladio Ristorante and Le Fontaine Ristorante offer traditional set-seating dinners (check your program for times; early sitting is generally at around 6:45 with the later one at 8:15 or so). Passengers can take breakfast or lunch in one designated main dining venue each day on an open-seating basis. Each evening, a pasta course is offered in addition to a main entree, and natural or sparkling water is poured free of charge. Our favorite part of dining in these venues is dessert -- MSC Poesia's chefs (and those on other ships in the fleet) concoct wonderful, authentic Italian pastries and cookies, even if the other dishes are sometimes hit or miss.

Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana is the lido buffet eatery, featuring breakfast and lunch daily. One downside here is that the set up is that of the old-school buffet line; the "action stations" being adopted throughout the industry really do make buffet dining easier and more customizable (create your own pasta rather than dig some ziti out of a lukewarm holding tray). In the evenings here, a pizzeria and a kebab eatery are set up -- but you'll have to pay. Pricing is a la carte (from about 5 euros per pizza, for example).

For a slightly more upscale experience, check out L'Obelisco, the for-fee specialty restaurant. The venue is actually area (all the way aft) of the Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana buffet that is converted into an alternative dining area at supper with tablecloths and waiter service. There is a set menu (there's an Italian bent, of course, but also Continental stalwarts like steak and lamb) supplemented by daily specials. The cover charge is 18 euros.

Kaito, the a la carte Japanese restaurant that launched to high praise onboard MSC Musica, the first ship in this class, but skipped a generation with MSC Orchestra (which boasts a Chinese eatery instead), is back. Onboard MSC Poesia, Kaito is a beautifully appointed space with Asian ambience -- modern, minimalist lines and decor. The restaurant offers sushi, sashimi, tempura and noodles, and is open for lunch and dinner daily (check the daily program for hours, which may vary); be prepared to pay a couple of euros per item.

A limited room service menu of sandwiches and salads is available at a la carte pricing.

Editor's note: If and when MSC Poesia sails in, say, the Caribbean, onboard prices will switch from euros to dollars, and certain aspects that carry a fee in Europe -- such as room service and evening pizza -- will become complimentary to fall in line with what other North American lines do (and what North American cruisers are used to).

Bed Time

There are four basic types of cabins onboard: insides (275, 12 of which are handicap accessible), outsides (173, two of which are handicap accessible), balcony (809, three of which are handicap accessible) and suites (18). What's notable about the range of accommodations onboard is that they're all very similar in size; even the few suites measure just 269 square ft. (for comparison, insides begin at 150 square ft. and balcony cabins at 164) and proffer only a few extra perks, such as fresh flowers and a daily tray of canapes. However, a good number of MSC Poesia's 1,275 staterooms have balconies -- 80 percent.

There are categorical variations within each style of cabin, based on location (some outsides on the Tasso Deck, for example, feature partially obstructed views due to lifeboat placement) and size (there are "standard" and "large" balcony cabins, a difference of about 8 square ft.).

Except for the suites, which come with bathtubs, expect a shower-only affair with the pesky curtain that tends to cause embarrassing floods if not closed properly. There is, however, a pleasantly powerful hair dryer in each cabin, and ample storage for clothes and amenities (speaking of which, MSC-branded shower gel, shampoo, soap and shower caps are replenished throughout; there's also a sewing kit in the desk drawer -- a nice thought).

Staterooms feature a black and red color scheme with darker wood finishes in upper categories (balcony and higher). All cabins have two single beds that convert into a double, except for those designated for the disabled; third and fourth bunks are available in a range of categories. All cabins also feature in-room Internet access (not wireless, though; that's only available in public lounges), a safe and a mini-bar.

One cool new addition is a remote control caddy on the bedside table that also holds the TV programming guide. No more blaming your cabin-mate for losing the clicker!

Grand Old Favorites

The wine bar, a staple on MSC Musica and Orchestra, is back and is one of our favorite spots onboard. On MSC Poesia, the space is called Grappolo d'Oro; there's a hefty list of wines from provinces across Italy along with Italian cheeses and meats. The light leather upholstery seems at first counterintuitive (wine bars are generally very dark and rich in tone), but ultimately it creates an atmosphere that's very open and chic.

New and Nifty

MSC Poesia enters the MSC fleet as its greenest ship -- and is one of the most environmentally friendly cruise vessels in the industry. It's the first ever to be coated with Intersleek 900 paint with "four release," a non-toxic substance that helps lower carbon dioxide emissions through the reduction of fuel. MSC Poesia is also outfitted with other technology to safeguard the environment and conserve energy. For example, when passengers leave their cabins, the temperature rises approximately two degrees, reducing the air conditioning output (and costs).

The ship's 1,500-square-ft. Bali-themed Aurea Spa has a few fresh innovations on offer as well. Q Frequency is a treatment that uses radio frequencies to lift the face and bust by facilitating the absorption of collagen; a "well being" bar offers revitalizing beverages such as fruit smoothies, vegetable juice "cocktails" and herbal teas; and a "sun shower," a space-age looking stall, delivers all-over body bronzing.

Kid-Friendly Factor

MSC Cruises' Mini Club program offers activities to cruisers between the ages of 3 and 13, but you won't see the same expansive breakdowns as on lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The dedicated children's facility, I Dinosauri, is geared mostly toward the younger set, with a Stone Age theme and small slide. Up on Deck 14, kids get their own wading pool and indoor/outdoor play areas with fun rope mazes and slides. As for the teenagers, there is an arcade that will certainly appeal -- but that's about it.

Editor's note: Be aware that because MSC is a European company, staff can legally serve alcohol in the bars to anyone over 18 years of age -- and pour wine for teenagers (with parental approval).

Huh?

During our short preview cruise, we happened upon some in-cabin television offerings many North Americans (or Europeans, for that matter) might not find to be kid-friendly, such as nudity. Programs that you deem unsuitable for members of your family can be blocked, however; be sure to contact Reception upon arrival if this is a concern. (Innocuous programming includes world news and pay-per-view movies.)

Bottom Line

MSC Poesia is a gorgeous new-build that showcases the continued evolution of the fast-growing Naples-based line. It is a good choice for budget-minded European cruisers, as well as North Americans who want to bring the international experience of a Mediterranean itinerary onboard as well by sailing with a mostly European crowd on a decidedly European ship.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor

Sneak Preview

First Impressions

MSC Poesia, christened in Dover on April 5, 2008, is the ninth ship in the MSC fleet and the third in the Musica class, preceded by MSC Musica and MSC Orchestra. Having just sailed a Western Mediterranean cruise onboard the latter, we were surprised to board this newest member of the family and find as many differences as similarities -- even though it was built from the same blueprint.

What stands out most is that even though public spaces are generally repeated from one ship in a class to the next, MSC Cruises has created more distinct designs with each new-build in the Musica class. Walking across MSC Poesia's Deck 7, where most of the bars and lounges are situated, the varying color schemes, themes and fabrics create a true sense of having left one area and entered another. These distinctions, strongest on this third in class, give each space more of an exclusive feel and less of a "just another shipboard bar" impression.

In addition, the ship is simply beautiful. It's elegant and stylish, even more so than its predecessors -- and its competitors. The line is oft compared to Carnival Corporation's Costa Cruises, another Italian line with wild interiors (Costa relies on wacky Joe Farcus); MSC's increasingly "refined" look is one of the biggest differences we've noted to date between the two. The extra special touches are in the details: Black marble adds class to the intimate Poker Room off the Zebra Bar, a music and dance hall, and Australian green marble dresses up the spacious atrium with its three-deck-high waterfall.

Beyond that, you'll find the usual suspects (two swimming pools, four whirlpools, duty-free shops, a double-decker theater for the line's renowned nightly production shows) and some really well executed takes on traditional spaces (a wine tasting bar where you can also sample Italian antipasti, and a private gaming rooms for Vegas-style glam). And of course, like all of the line's ships, Italian culture is prevalent onboard and serves as an important part of the entire experience. "Poesia" is the Italian word for "poetry," and each deck is named after an Italian poet. Deck 6 is Dante, named after Dante Aligheri who penned "The Divine Comedy"; Deck 9, Ungaretti, celebrates Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.

Italian is spoken by many members of the staff, though an increasingly diverse passenger base also necessitates written and verbal communications in languages such as English, German, Spanish, French, and even Japanese.

Mealtime

There are four restaurants onboard MSC Poesia. The two main dining rooms -- Il Palladio Ristorante and Le Fontaine Ristorante offer traditional set-seating dinners (check your program for times; early sitting is generally at around 6:45 with the later one at 8:15 or so). Passengers can take breakfast or lunch in one designated main dining venue each day on an open-seating basis. Each evening, a pasta course is offered in addition to a main entree. Natural or sparkling water is poured free of charge in the Mediterranean (one bottle per night, per stateroom). Our favorite part of dining in these venues is dessert -- MSC Poesia's chefs (and those on other ships in the fleet) concoct wonderful, authentic Italian pastries and cookies, even if the other dishes are sometimes hit or miss.

Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana is the lido buffet eatery, featuring breakfast and lunch daily. One downside here is that the set up is that of the old-school buffet line; the "action stations" being adopted throughout the industry really do make buffet dining easier and more customizable (create your own pasta rather than dig some ziti out of a lukewarm holding tray). In the evenings here, a pizzeria and a kebab eatery are set up -- but you'll have to pay. Pricing is a la carte (from about 5 euros per pizza, for example).

For a slightly more upscale experience, check out L'Obelisco, the for-fee specialty restaurant. The venue is actually area (all the way aft) of the Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana buffet that is converted into an alternative dining area at supper with tablecloths and waiter service. There is a set menu (there's an Italian bent, of course, but also Continental stalwarts like steak and lamb) supplemented by daily specials. The cover charge is 18 euros.

Kaito, the a la carte Japanese restaurant that launched to high praise onboard MSC Musica, the first ship in this class, but skipped a generation with MSC Orchestra (which boasts a Chinese eatery instead), is back. Onboard MSC Poesia, Kaito is a beautifully appointed space with Asian ambience -- modern, minimalist lines and decor. The restaurant offers sushi, sashimi, tempura and noodles, and is open for lunch and dinner daily (check the daily program for hours, which may vary); be prepared to pay a couple of euros per item.

A limited room service menu of sandwiches and salads is available at a la carte pricing.

Editor's note: If and when MSC Poesia sails in, say, the Caribbean, onboard prices will switch from euros to dollars, and certain aspects that carry a fee in Europe -- such as room service and evening pizza -- will become complimentary to fall in line with what other North American lines do (and what North American cruisers are used to).

Bed Time

There are four basic types of cabins onboard: insides (275, 12 of which are handicap accessible), outsides (173, two of which are handicap accessible), balcony (809, three of which are handicap accessible) and suites (18). What's notable about the range of accommodations onboard is that they're all very similar in size; even the few suites measure just 269 square ft. (for comparison, insides begin at 150 square ft. and balcony cabins at 164) and proffer only a few extra perks, such as fresh flowers and a daily tray of canapes. However, a good number of MSC Poesia's 1,275 staterooms have balconies -- 80 percent.

There are categorical variations within each style of cabin, based on location (some outsides on the Tasso Deck, for example, feature partially obstructed views due to lifeboat placement) and size (there are "standard" and "large" balcony cabins, a difference of about 8 square ft.).

Except for the suites, which come with bathtubs, expect a shower-only affair with the pesky curtain that tends to cause embarrassing floods if not closed properly. There is, however, a pleasantly powerful hair dryer in each cabin, and ample storage for clothes and amenities (speaking of which, MSC-branded shower gel, shampoo, soap and shower caps are replenished throughout; there's also a sewing kit in the desk drawer -- a nice thought).

Staterooms feature a black and red color scheme with darker wood finishes in upper categories (balcony and higher). All cabins have two single beds that convert into a double, except for those designated for the disabled; third and fourth bunks are available in a range of categories. All cabins also feature in-room Internet access (not wireless, though; that's only available in public lounges), a safe and a mini-bar.

One cool new addition is a remote control caddy on the bedside table that also holds the TV programming guide. No more blaming your cabin-mate for losing the clicker!

Grand Old Favorites

The wine bar, a staple on MSC Musica and Orchestra, is back and is one of our favorite spots onboard. On MSC Poesia, the space is called Grappolo d'Oro; there's a hefty list of wines from provinces across Italy along with Italian cheeses and meats. The light leather upholstery seems at first counterintuitive (wine bars are generally very dark and rich in tone), but ultimately it creates an atmosphere that's very open and chic.

New and Nifty

MSC Poesia enters the MSC fleet as its greenest ship -- and is one of the most environmentally friendly cruise vessels in the industry. It's the first ever to be coated with Intersleek 900 paint with "four release," a non-toxic substance that helps lower carbon dioxide emissions through the reduction of fuel. MSC Poesia is also outfitted with other technology to safeguard the environment and conserve energy. For example, when passengers leave their cabins, the temperature rises approximately two degrees, reducing the air conditioning output (and costs).

The ship's 17,384-square-foot Bali-themed Aurea Spa has a few fresh innovations on offer as well. Q Frequency is a treatment that uses radio frequencies to lift the face and bust by facilitating the absorption of collagen; a "well being" bar offers revitalizing beverages such as fruit smoothies, vegetable juice "cocktails" and herbal teas; and a "sun shower," a space-age looking stall, delivers all-over body bronzing.

Kid-Friendly Factor

MSC Cruises' Mini Club program offers activities to cruisers between the ages of 3 and 13, but you won't see the same expansive breakdowns as on lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The dedicated children's facility, I Dinosauri, is geared mostly toward the younger set, with a Stone Age theme and small slide. Up on Deck 14, kids get their own wading pool and indoor/outdoor play areas with fun rope mazes and slides. As for the teenagers, there is an arcade that will certainly appeal -- but that's about it.

Editor's note: Be aware that because MSC is a European company, staff can legally serve alcohol in the bars to anyone over 18 years of age -- and pour wine for teenagers (with parental approval).

Huh?

During our short preview cruise, we happened upon some in-cabin television offerings many North Americans (or Europeans, for that matter) might not find to be kid-friendly, such as nudity. Programs that you deem unsuitable for members of your family can be blocked, however; be sure to contact Reception upon arrival if this is a concern. (Innocuous programming includes world news and pay-per-view movies.)

Bottom Line

MSC Poesia is a gorgeous new-build that showcases the continued evolution of the fast-growing Naples-based line. It is a good choice for budget-minded European cruisers, as well as North Americans who want to bring the international experience of a Mediterranean itinerary onboard as well by sailing with a mostly European crowd on a decidedly European ship.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor

Sneak Preview

First Impressions

MSC Poesia, christened in Dover on April 5, 2008, is the ninth ship in the MSC fleet and the third in the Musica class, preceded by MSC Musica and MSC Orchestra. Having just sailed a Western Mediterranean cruise onboard the latter, we were surprised to board this newest member of the family and find as many differences as similarities -- even though it was built from the same blueprint.

What stands out most is that even though public spaces are generally repeated from one ship in a class to the next, MSC Cruises has created more distinct designs with each new-build in the Musica class. Walking across MSC Poesia's Deck 7, where most of the bars and lounges are situated, the varying color schemes, themes and fabrics create a true sense of having left one area and entered another. These distinctions, strongest on this third in class, give each space more of an exclusive feel and less of a "just another shipboard bar" impression.

In addition, the ship is simply beautiful. It's elegant and stylish, even more so than its predecessors -- and its competitors. The line is oft compared to Carnival Corporation's Costa Cruises, another Italian line with wild interiors (Costa relies on wacky Joe Farcus); MSC's increasingly "refined" look is one of the biggest differences we've noted to date between the two. The extra special touches are in the details: Black marble adds class to the intimate Poker Room off the Zebra Bar, a music and dance hall, and Australian green marble dresses up the spacious atrium with its three-deck-high waterfall.

Beyond that, you'll find the usual suspects (two swimming pools, four whirlpools, duty-free shops, a double-decker theater for the line's renowned nightly production shows) and some really well executed takes on traditional spaces (a wine tasting bar where you can also sample Italian antipasti, and a private gaming rooms for Vegas-style glam). And of course, like all of the line's ships, Italian culture is prevalent onboard and serves as an important part of the entire experience. "Poesia" is the Italian word for "poetry," and each deck is named after an Italian poet. Deck 6 is Dante, named after Dante Aligheri who penned "The Divine Comedy"; Deck 9, Ungaretti, celebrates Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.

Italian is spoken by many members of the staff, though an increasingly diverse passenger base also necessitates written and verbal communications in languages such as English, German, Spanish, French, and even Japanese.

Mealtime

There are four restaurants onboard MSC Poesia. The two main dining rooms -- Il Palladio Ristorante and Le Fontaine Ristorante offer traditional set-seating dinners (check your program for times; early sitting is generally at around 6:45 with the later one at 8:15 or so). Passengers can take breakfast or lunch in one designated main dining venue each day on an open-seating basis. Each evening, a pasta course is offered in addition to a main entree, and natural or sparkling water is poured free of charge. Our favorite part of dining in these venues is dessert -- MSC Poesia's chefs (and those on other ships in the fleet) concoct wonderful, authentic Italian pastries and cookies, even if the other dishes are sometimes hit or miss.

Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana is the lido buffet eatery, featuring breakfast and lunch daily. One downside here is that the set up is that of the old-school buffet line; the "action stations" being adopted throughout the industry really do make buffet dining easier and more customizable (create your own pasta rather than dig some ziti out of a lukewarm holding tray). In the evenings here, a pizzeria and a kebab eatery are set up -- but you'll have to pay. Pricing is a la carte (from about 5 euros per pizza, for example).

For a slightly more upscale experience, check out L'Obelisco, the for-fee specialty restaurant. The venue is actually area (all the way aft) of the Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana buffet that is converted into an alternative dining area at supper with tablecloths and waiter service. There is a set menu (there's an Italian bent, of course, but also Continental stalwarts like steak and lamb) supplemented by daily specials. The cover charge is 18 euros.

Kaito, the a la carte Japanese restaurant that launched to high praise onboard MSC Musica, the first ship in this class, but skipped a generation with MSC Orchestra (which boasts a Chinese eatery instead), is back. Onboard MSC Poesia, Kaito is a beautifully appointed space with Asian ambience -- modern, minimalist lines and decor. The restaurant offers sushi, sashimi, tempura and noodles, and is open for lunch and dinner daily (check the daily program for hours, which may vary); be prepared to pay a couple of euros per item.

A limited room service menu of sandwiches and salads is available at a la carte pricing.

Editor's note: If and when MSC Poesia sails in, say, the Caribbean, onboard prices will switch from euros to dollars, and certain aspects that carry a fee in Europe -- such as room service and evening pizza -- will become complimentary to fall in line with what other North American lines do (and what North American cruisers are used to).

Bed Time

There are four basic types of cabins onboard: insides (275, 12 of which are handicap accessible), outsides (173, two of which are handicap accessible), balcony (809, three of which are handicap accessible) and suites (18). What's notable about the range of accommodations onboard is that they're all very similar in size; even the few suites measure just 269 square ft. (for comparison, insides begin at 150 square ft. and balcony cabins at 164) and proffer only a few extra perks, such as fresh flowers and a daily tray of canapes. However, a good number of MSC Poesia's 1,275 staterooms have balconies -- 80 percent.

There are categorical variations within each style of cabin, based on location (some outsides on the Tasso Deck, for example, feature partially obstructed views due to lifeboat placement) and size (there are "standard" and "large" balcony cabins, a difference of about 8 square ft.).

Except for the suites, which come with bathtubs, expect a shower-only affair with the pesky curtain that tends to cause embarrassing floods if not closed properly. There is, however, a pleasantly powerful hair dryer in each cabin, and ample storage for clothes and amenities (speaking of which, MSC-branded shower gel, shampoo, soap and shower caps are replenished throughout; there's also a sewing kit in the desk drawer -- a nice thought).

Staterooms feature a black and red color scheme with darker wood finishes in upper categories (balcony and higher). All cabins have two single beds that convert into a double, except for those designated for the disabled; third and fourth bunks are available in a range of categories. All cabins also feature in-room Internet access (not wireless, though; that's only available in public lounges), a safe and a mini-bar.

One cool new addition is a remote control caddy on the bedside table that also holds the TV programming guide. No more blaming your cabin-mate for losing the clicker!

Grand Old Favorites

The wine bar, a staple on MSC Musica and Orchestra, is back and is one of our favorite spots onboard. On MSC Poesia, the space is called Grappolo d'Oro; there's a hefty list of wines from provinces across Italy along with Italian cheeses and meats. The light leather upholstery seems at first counterintuitive (wine bars are generally very dark and rich in tone), but ultimately it creates an atmosphere that's very open and chic.

New and Nifty

MSC Poesia enters the MSC fleet as its greenest ship -- and is one of the most environmentally friendly cruise vessels in the industry. It's the first ever to be coated with Intersleek 900 paint with "four release," a non-toxic substance that helps lower carbon dioxide emissions through the reduction of fuel. MSC Poesia is also outfitted with other technology to safeguard the environment and conserve energy. For example, when passengers leave their cabins, the temperature rises approximately two degrees, reducing the air conditioning output (and costs).

The ship's 1,500-square-ft. Bali-themed Aurea Spa has a few fresh innovations on offer as well. Q Frequency is a treatment that uses radio frequencies to lift the face and bust by facilitating the absorption of collagen; a "well being" bar offers revitalizing beverages such as fruit smoothies, vegetable juice "cocktails" and herbal teas; and a "sun shower," a space-age looking stall, delivers all-over body bronzing.

Kid-Friendly Factor

MSC Cruises' Mini Club program offers activities to cruisers between the ages of 3 and 13, but you won't see the same expansive breakdowns as on lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The dedicated children's facility, I Dinosauri, is geared mostly toward the younger set, with a Stone Age theme and small slide. Up on Deck 14, kids get their own wading pool and indoor/outdoor play areas with fun rope mazes and slides. As for the teenagers, there is an arcade that will certainly appeal -- but that's about it.

Editor's note: Be aware that because MSC is a European company, staff can legally serve alcohol in the bars to anyone over 18 years of age -- and pour wine for teenagers (with parental approval).

Huh?

During our short preview cruise, we happened upon some in-cabin television offerings many North Americans (or Europeans, for that matter) might not find to be kid-friendly, such as nudity. Programs that you deem unsuitable for members of your family can be blocked, however; be sure to contact Reception upon arrival if this is a concern. (Innocuous programming includes world news and pay-per-view movies.)

Bottom Line

MSC Poesia is a gorgeous new-build that showcases the continued evolution of the fast-growing Naples-based line. It is a good choice for budget-minded European cruisers, as well as North Americans who want to bring the international experience of a Mediterranean itinerary onboard as well by sailing with a mostly European crowd on a decidedly European ship.

--by Melissa Baldwin, Managing Editor

Sneak Preview

First Impressions

MSC Poesia, christened in Dover on April 5, 2008, is the ninth ship in the MSC fleet and the third in the Musica class, preceded by MSC Musica and MSC Orchestra. Having just sailed a Western Mediterranean cruise onboard the latter, we were surprised to board this newest member of the family and find as many differences as similarities -- even though it was built from the same blueprint.

What stands out most is that even though public spaces are generally repeated from one ship in a class to the next, MSC Cruises has created more distinct designs with each new-build in the Musica class. Walking across MSC Poesia's Deck 7, where most of the bars and lounges are situated, the varying color schemes, themes and fabrics create a true sense of having left one area and entered another. These distinctions, strongest on this third in class, give each space more of an exclusive feel and less of a "just another shipboard bar" impression.

In addition, the ship is simply beautiful. It's elegant and stylish, even more so than its predecessors -- and its competitors. The line is oft compared to Carnival Corporation's Costa Cruises, another Italian line with wild interiors (Costa relies on wacky Joe Farcus); MSC's increasingly "refined" look is one of the biggest differences we've noted to date between the two. The extra special touches are in the details: Black marble adds class to the intimate Poker Room off the Zebra Bar, a music and dance hall, and Australian green marble dresses up the spacious atrium with its three-deck-high waterfall.

Beyond that, you'll find the usual suspects (two swimming pools, four whirlpools, duty-free shops, a double-decker theater for the line's renowned nightly production shows) and some really well executed takes on traditional spaces (a wine tasting bar where you can also sample Italian antipasti, and a private gaming rooms for Vegas-style glam). And of course, like all of the line's ships, Italian culture is prevalent onboard and serves as an important part of the entire experience. "Poesia" is the Italian word for "poetry," and each deck is named after an Italian poet. Deck 6 is Dante, named after Dante Aligheri who penned "The Divine Comedy"; Deck 9, Ungaretti, celebrates Italian hermetic poet Giuseppe Ungaretti.

Italian is spoken by many members of the staff, though an increasingly diverse passenger base also necessitates written and verbal communications in languages such as English, German, Spanish, French, and even Japanese.

Mealtime

There are four restaurants onboard MSC Poesia. The two main dining rooms -- Il Palladio Ristorante and Le Fontaine Ristorante offer traditional set-seating dinners (check your program for times; early sitting is generally at around 6:45 with the later one at 8:15 or so). Passengers can take breakfast or lunch in one designated main dining venue each day on an open-seating basis. Each evening, a pasta course is offered in addition to a main entree. Natural or sparkling water is poured free of charge in the Mediterranean (one bottle per night, per stateroom). Our favorite part of dining in these venues is dessert -- MSC Poesia's chefs (and those on other ships in the fleet) concoct wonderful, authentic Italian pastries and cookies, even if the other dishes are sometimes hit or miss.

Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana is the lido buffet eatery, featuring breakfast and lunch daily. One downside here is that the set up is that of the old-school buffet line; the "action stations" being adopted throughout the industry really do make buffet dining easier and more customizable (create your own pasta rather than dig some ziti out of a lukewarm holding tray). In the evenings here, a pizzeria and a kebab eatery are set up -- but you'll have to pay. Pricing is a la carte (from about 5 euros per pizza, for example).

For a slightly more upscale experience, check out L'Obelisco, the for-fee specialty restaurant. The venue is actually area (all the way aft) of the Cafeteria Villa Pompeiana buffet that is converted into an alternative dining area at supper with tablecloths and waiter service. There is a set menu (there's an Italian bent, of course, but also Continental stalwarts like steak and lamb) supplemented by daily specials. The cover charge is 18 euros.

Kaito, the a la carte Japanese restaurant that launched to high praise onboard MSC Musica, the first ship in this class, but skipped a generation with MSC Orchestra (which boasts a Chinese eatery instead), is back. Onboard MSC Poesia, Kaito is a beautifully appointed space with Asian ambience -- modern, minimalist lines and decor. The restaurant offers sushi, sashimi, tempura and noodles, and is open for lunch and dinner daily (check the daily program for hours, which may vary); be prepared to pay a couple of euros per item.

A limited room service menu of sandwiches and salads is available at a la carte pricing.

Editor's note: If and when MSC Poesia sails in, say, the Caribbean, onboard prices will switch from euros to dollars, and certain aspects that carry a fee in Europe -- such as room service and evening pizza -- will become complimentary to fall in line with what other North American lines do (and what North American cruisers are used to).

Bed Time

There are four basic types of cabins onboard: insides (275, 12 of which are handicap accessible), outsides (173, two of which are handicap accessible), balcony (809, three of which are handicap accessible) and suites (18). What's notable about the range of accommodations onboard is that they're all very similar in size; even the few suites measure just 269 square ft. (for comparison, insides begin at 150 square ft. and balcony cabins at 164) and proffer only a few extra perks, such as fresh flowers and a daily tray of canapes. However, a good number of MSC Poesia's 1,275 staterooms have balconies -- 80 percent.

There are categorical variations within each style of cabin, based on location (some outsides on the Tasso Deck, for example, feature partially obstructed views due to lifeboat placement) and size (there are "standard" and "large" balcony cabins, a difference of about 8 square ft.).

Except for the suites, which come with bathtubs, expect a shower-only affair with the pesky curtain that tends to cause embarrassing floods if not closed properly. There is, however, a pleasantly powerful hair dryer in each cabin, and ample storage for clothes and amenities (speaking of which, MSC-branded shower gel, shampoo, soap and shower caps are replenished throughout; there's also a sewing kit in the desk drawer -- a nice thought).

Staterooms feature a black and red color scheme with darker wood finishes in upper categories (balcony and higher). All cabins have two single beds that convert into a double, except for those designated for the disabled; third and fourth bunks are available in a range of categories. All cabins also feature in-room Internet access (not wireless, though; that's only available in public lounges), a safe and a mini-bar.

One cool new addition is a remote control caddy on the bedside table that also holds the TV programming guide. No more blaming your cabin-mate for losing the clicker!

Grand Old Favorites

The wine bar, a staple on MSC Musica and Orchestra, is back and is one of our favorite spots onboard. On MSC Poesia, the space is called Grappolo d'Oro; there's a hefty list of wines from provinces across Italy along with Italian cheeses and meats. The light leather upholstery seems at first counterintuitive (wine bars are generally very dark and rich in tone), but ultimately it creates an atmosphere that's very open and chic.

New and Nifty

MSC Poesia enters the MSC fleet as its greenest ship -- and is one of the most environmentally friendly cruise vessels in the industry. It's the first ever to be coated with Intersleek 900 paint with "four release," a non-toxic substance that helps lower carbon dioxide emissions through the reduction of fuel. MSC Poesia is also outfitted with other technology to safeguard the environment and conserve energy. For example, when passengers leave their cabins, the temperature rises approximately two degrees, reducing the air conditioning output (and costs).

The ship's 17,384-square-foot Bali-themed Aurea Spa has a few fresh innovations on offer as well. Q Frequency is a treatment that uses radio frequencies to lift the face and bust by facilitating the absorption of collagen; a "well being" bar offers revitalizing beverages such as fruit smoothies, vegetable juice "cocktails" and herbal teas; and a "sun shower," a space-age looking stall, delivers all-over body bronzing.

Kid-Friendly Factor

MSC Cruises' Mini Club program offers activities to cruisers between the ages of 3 and 13, but you won't see the same expansive breakdowns as on lines such as Carnival and Royal Caribbean. The dedicated children's facility, I Dinosauri, is geared mostly toward the younger set, with a Stone Age theme and small slide. Up on Deck 14, kids get their own wading pool and indoor/outdoor play areas with fun rope mazes and slides. As for the teenagers, there is an arcade that will certainly appeal -- but that's about it.

Editor's note: Be aware that because MSC is a European company, staff can legally serve alcohol in the bars to anyone over 18 years of age -- and pour wine for teenagers (with parental approval).

Huh?

During our short preview cruise, we happened upon some in-cabin television offerings many North Americans (or Europeans, for that matter) might not find to be kid-friendly, such as nudity. Programs that you deem unsuitable for members of your family can be blocked, however; be sure to contact Reception upon arrival if this is a concern. (Innocuous programming includes world news and pay-per-view movies.)

Bottom Line

MSC Poesia is a gorgeous new-build that showcases the continued evolution of the fast-growing Naples-based line. It is a good choice for budget-minded European cruisers, as well as North Americans who want to bring the international experience of a Mediterranean itinerary onboard as well by sailing with a mostly European crowd on a decidedly European ship.

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