Overall Rating: Excellent
|Destination:||Caribbean - Southern|
|Departed From:||Fort Lauderdale|
|# of Nights:||9-10 Nights|
I found an itinerary for our annual anniversary cruise that we really liked. It was a 10 day sailing from Fort Lauderdale on MSC Poesia to Bonaire, Aruba, Cartegena, Cristobal, and Falmouth. Out of 72 cruises, we had never been to Bonaire, Cartegena, or Cristobal/Panama Canal.
We had sailed on MSC Orchestra several years ago with a group of agents, and while many did not, my wife and I really enjoyed MSC. Yes, it is focused on an international crowd, not particularly North Americans, but we found many dance venues each evening on the Orchestra and wanted to try MSC again. Besides, as past passenger (although it took a long time to get MSC Club numbers) we got a 5% past pax discount.
We were midships on deck 11 in a balcony, and it was convenient, as the nearby midships elevator went down to the areas where the lounges were, and the aft elevator to the buffet area. More than enough storage for two people, and the beds were great. No thick duvets, but I don't like duvets as they are too warm for me.
Each evening the shows were at 6:30 for those with 8pm dining. Shows were about 35 minutes on average, and they were absolutely great. We went to every one except one night when it was just classical music. The dancers were terrific and the singers, soloist, superb. They mixed in some acrobats and aerial performances during the shows. Every show was different and unlike the typical cruise ship showtimes. Nine different shows in 10 nights by the same cast. Outstanding.
We found two lounges with 2 or 3 musicians each, and a solo acoustic guitarist in the wine bar. They played very danceable music, from the 40's to 90's in one, a duet, and the other tended to involve the ship entertainment staff, but did have samba, salsa and more. The bartenders recognized us by the second night when we'd arrive for cocktails and dancing before dinner, and had my martini and my wife's prosecco a glass of ice water ready promptly. After dinner we often returned to dance some more.
I've heard some people prior to this cruise complain that MSC is all Italian food, but while Italian is always available on this Italian owned line, it is just an option. We had leg of lamb, osso bucco, chicken marsala, prawns, lobster, salmon, tilapia, dorado, and more. Chicken or cornish hens were available. Steaks were always available, but I was NOT impressed with the steaks. It was the same cut served under a variety of aliases and not great, but cooked right. The appetizers were varied and very good, as were the salads. Soups were so, so. Every night they had a sugar free desert option, but the baked alaska was one of the best we have had. Missed creme brulee, but wasn't disappointed in the choices. Breakfast buffet had freshly fried eggs, but no omelettes to order, but they did have omelettes on the buffet line. Great pastry choices. I never had trouble finding seating in the buffet. We ate breakfast in the dining room twice, as that was the only place to find lox and bagels.
As I did last time, I enjoyed the pizza available on the buffet 12 hour a day. They don't offer beverages in the theater. Service was very good in the buffet, and the lounges. Numerous staff from Bali, and far less East European or the Philippines than other lines. The dining room service was slow, and they never asked if we wanted more bread, or coffee, etc. Considering we were near the Captain's table, I would have expected better waitstaff. The Asst maitre de' or head waiter, however, visited our table every night. Maybe our waitstaff were new.
When I wanted a bottle of prosecco for the room, we just purchased it at the bar and took it to the room. They offered a wine package that provided 10 bottles of wine to choose from a list for only $183.99 if booked online before the cruise, or $199 if purchased onboard. We enjoyed several excellent Italian wines, some Australian, and a few American ones. Cocktails were moderately priced, $7.25 for a cocktail....much less than other cruise lines.
Yes, announcements were in English, German, Spanish, French, and Italian, but they were infrequent....and none were promoting bingo, fortunately. Even the intro to the shows was multilingual, with the Cruise Director doing all but the English (which she could speak fluently), and the Asst Cruise Director (from South Africa) doing the English. TV had CNN International and Headline News Network, and movies in several languages. TV also had for fee movies available.
All ports were pierside, so no tendering issues. In Bonaire I had booked a private snorkeling tour and in shallow water saw tarpon, bonefish, and many others. In Aruba we booked a terrific snorkeling excursion through Shore Excursion Group: The Antillia Shipwreck Sail and Snorkel Trip Taxi to the Hyatt Hotel at Palm Beach and a dingy out to the catamaran. Water was really clear over the wreck, with lots of fish, and a reef stop later was not as good. They even provided everyone with a I love Aruba T-shirt.
In Cartagena we exited the terminal and found vendors who were offering a 2 1/2 hour van tour of old and new Cartagena for $20 per person. The new city looks like Miami, and the older city like Old San Juan. They even took us to an emerald museum, and some walking in the old city.
In Cristobal we had booked an MSC tour, about 10 hours, a transit of the canal by ferry. We were bused to a landing in Gatun Lake, and then sailed through the San Miguel and Miraflores locks into the Pacific. We bused back to the ship. Great trip, but HOT. Some of the ferry was airconditioned, and they included a Panamanian Lunch. We had a great tour guide, who has lived her life in Panama, but is from Pennsylvania.
In Falmouth we just did the MSC excursion, Chukka Beach Break: a van ride to a nearby beach and chair.
Weather was great the whole time. Wifi aboard was faster than any other ship I've been on, and a package of 300 minutes was only $83.99.
We really enjoyed ourselves, and wouldn't hesitate to book MSC in the Western Hemisphere again. We met a number of other North Americans who have booked MSC several times. Kids under 12 sail for just taxes, and kids 12-17 sail for $99 plus taxes. Deposits are just $200 a couple all the time.