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Suzanne Somers
Suzanne Somers & MSC Poesia:
Poetry at Sea

MSC Poesia
"Poetry at Sea"

by Linda Coffman

November 2009 Actress, entrepreneur, fitness guru, author, and... poet. Poet? Most people who know Suzanne Somers from her appearance as the elusive "Blonde in the T-Bird" in the movie "American Graffiti," in the role of Chrissy Snow in television's "Three's Company" and as the leader of a natural health trend for women, may not know that Ms. Somer's initial artistic endeavor was a book of poetry. In fact, in her first television appearance she discussed her poems with Johnny Carson on "The Tonight Show."

So, Ms. Somers was a natural choice to officially welcome MSC Cruises' MSC Poesia to America for her first season of Caribbean cruises. In addition to her official duty at a ceremony in which plaques and keys were exchanged between MSC Cruises, Port Everglades, and Broward County dignitaries, Ms. Somers hosted "The Suzanne Cruise" with 900 of her fans. She brought along fitness experts to present seminars and treated her group to a Las Vegas-style musical performance in the MSC Poesia's Carlo Felice Theatre. In addition to singing, Ms. Somers showed her comedic side with a gentleman plucked from the audience. He was clearly delighted and was awarded with a Thighmaster for his participation.

As a bonus, our 5-night sailing was also the President's Cruise with Richard Sasso, CEO & President of MSC Cruises USA on board MSC Poesia and hosting activities and events for passengers. Cruise Diva had an opportunity to sit down with him to discuss the fastest growing cruise line in the history of the cruise industry and how the Caribbean experience differs from an MSC cruise in Europe. While MSC Cruises are proudly Italian, there are some changes made to cater to North American tastes and expectations, particularly in the way of food service. For instance, there is no charge for soft serve ice cream and pizza and the buffet dining hours are extended. Coffee is available 24 hours. The entertainment is designed for international audiences with an emphasis on the talent and expertise of performers. In the spa, there is complimentary access to the thermal suite, for which there is a charge in the Mediterranean due to higher demand. We agree with Sasso that Americans will find a unique premium cruise on one of the cleanest ships at sea when sailing aboard MSC Poesia.

The Ship
Christened in Dover, England by Italy's legendary Sophia Loren in April, 2008, MSC Poesia is a Musica-class ship and essentially identical in layout to sister-ship MSC Orchestra, which CruiseDiva.com profiled in March 2009. Our first impression of MSC Orchestra was mirrored by MSC Poesia. She is an Italian beauty with an abundance of gleaming marble and brass. In a way, you could say the décor is a bit retro, but my husband Mel’s description—“upscale warmth”—sums up the overall feeling.

Upon further inspection, we discovered MSC Poesia's main lounges are slightly more daring, such as the deep red hues of the intimate jazz lounge Bar dei Poeti and the appropriately named Zebra Lounge with its black and white zebra print on seating, walls, and even carpeting.

At 93,300 tons and with 13 passenger decks, MSC Poesia carries 2,550 passenger based on double occupancy. With their "children sail free" policy, there are often families aboard and the capacity exceeds that figure. However, we sailed with 2,612 passengers and never felt crowded.

Balcony stateroomAccommodations
With 192 sq ft inside and a spacious balcony, MSC Poesia’s Balcony Stateroom 11103 (pictured here) was our very comfortable home on board. Cheerful artwork and deep burgundy fabrics set off warm wood paneling and creamy wall coverings. Closet doors concealed more than adequate hanging and storage space with a bank of drawers, shelves, and personal safe behind one. A dressing table/desk contained more drawers, one with a built-in hairdryer. In addition, a flat-screen interactive television was mounted over a corner cabinet that housed the mini-bar refrigerator.

Although the bathroom wasn’t large, it felt bigger than most standard cruise ship baths due to the layout of the corner shower with a rounded side. Cabinets beneath the vanity augmented two wall mounted shelves for toiletries. For Mel, its most important component was good water pressure and consistent temperature—no blast of cold water when other passengers turned the water on in their showers.

While there are a dozen categories to choose from on MSC Poesia, accommodations are laid out in five basic configurations: Suites; Superior Balcony and Balcony Staterooms (Superior balconies facing aft); and Oceanview and Interior Staterooms. There are also seventeen wheelchair accessible accommodations in a variety of categories.

Wander up to deck 15 and you'll find a suite that is designated the “Sophia Loren Suite”—named for MSC Poesia’s Godmother—and bears her signature. In fact, each new ship in MSC Cruises’ fleet has such a suite as Ms. Loren has christened them all. She uses her suite to relax and entertain guests when she is on board and, in the event she wishes to sail, it’s all hers.

Dining
Food is a very personal subject and one that’s hotly debated by cruise passengers. This was good… That wasn’t... It's all a matter of taste.

sushi bar
Kaito Sushi Bar
pizza
Pizza!

I like Italian food, especially authentic Italian food. Unfortunately, many Americans haven’t had the opportunity to visit Italy and their exposure to “Italian” cuisine has been limited to Pizza Hut and Olive Garden where pasta is drowned in heavy sauces and garlic is the only identifiable spice—usually on crusty bread. The Italian food on MSC Poesia was much lighter—particularly the spaghetti and other pasta dishes. Some people loved it and some didn’t. I particularly enjoyed the gnocchi and, for dessert, tiramasu that was to die for. On "lobster night" I again passed on the crustacean in favor of a delightful veal entree.

We set out to dine in each of MSC Poesia's restaurants and, as a result, only had dinner in the dining room once during our 5-night cruise. We tried the Kaito Sushi Bar Restaurant, the L'Obelisco for steaks, and even the casual evening buffet and pizza options.

Mel and I don't eat sushi so we weren't initially drawn to the Kaito Sushi Bar. After taking a look at the menu, which includes Teriyaki-style beef, chicken, and salmon and Shrimp Tempura, we decided to give it a try and the dishes, particularly the shrimp and fried rice, were delicious. What we do prefer for dinner is a good steak and L'Obelisco didn’t disappoint us a bit. The entire meal was enjoyable in the aft-facing section of the buffet restaurant seating area (cordoned off in the evening). With a view over MSC Poesia’s wake, the setting is divine. Reservations are required for the specialty restaurants and a la carte menu pricing is quite reasonable.

Now, about that pizza. Richard Sasso claims it’s the best at sea and we aren’t about to argue. Baked in special pizza ovens at a temperature of approximately 600°, we always found piping hot pies available in the afternoon and evening. Slices went so fast that they didn’t have time to cool down. That says a lot the variety of the hand made and authentic variety. At lunch you'll find pan pizza with a thicker crust and for dinner, the round hand-tossed style. Some of the toppings were new to me, such as a spicy salami that became my favorite.

Beneath the hot Caribbean sun, MSC Poesia’s two ice cream options were poolside favorites—soft serve cones outside the Villa Pompeiana buffet restaurant and a dozen flavors of gelato at the Mojito Bar available in cups, cones, or sundaes ($1.50-$4). While several lounges are designated “coffee bars,” specialty coffee drinks can be ordered ship wide, even at a bar in the buffet.

In addition to restaurant meals, evening cheese and prosciutto snacks were served in the Il Grappolo D'Oro Wine Bar and MSC Cruises continues the tradition of lavish midnight buffets. The buffet on Gala Night was truly a sight, with the kind of elaborate ice and vegetable carvings not often seen these days.

Here's a lunchtime tip. While the Villa Pompeiana buffet restaurant can get crowded at peak times, go past the first lines you encounter as you walk aft and head for the lines in back where there is more seating. The selections are the same and it's less congested. And do try a hamburger, which is grilled and served in the regular buffet lines. Along with the pizza, the hamburgers are the best I've tried on a cruise ship.

More in Part Two: Entertainment, Activities, and Itineraries


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