Eastern Caribbean Cruise
Feb. 18-25, 2012
By Mary & Vincent Finelli
Frequently, in various ports, we have seen the Mediterranean
Shipping Company’s (MSC) beautiful ships. However, this was our
first cruise on one of them, the MSC Poesia. We had attempted a few
times to book a wheelchair accessible cabin with balcony on this
ship, but without luck until now. We are always seeking new cruising
experiences, and now we have had the pleasure of cruising
Mediterranean style. Thanks to Hotel Director Neven Zdunic and his
assistant Mandy Leigh Castle and the two very interesting books they
provided us with, we are able to give some pertinent background on
this line and its founders.
Commander Gianluigi Aponte’s grandfather Luigi Aponte, a venerable
sailor, won the 50th Edition of the Italian Unification Trophy, so
sailing is in this family’s blood. The love of the sea and ships has
been passed down for generations. In 1970 the Commander founded the
MSC Fleet and it has become the second largest container
transportation company in the world. Today, there are two divisions
of MSC: the Cargo sector headed by Diego, the Commander’s son; and
the MSC Cruises (1987) headed by Alexa, the Commander’s daughter. Of
prime interest to us is the MSC Cruises which accommodates millions
of passengers, sailing from five different continents on more than
one dozen ships.
The first liner fleet included the MSC Monterey, the MSC Achille
Lauro, the MSC Symphony, the MSC Rhapsody and the Flagship the MSC
Melody, which was proclaimed “the most beautiful ship in the world”
Pier 4 in Ft. Lauderdale, FL is a very small area near the Princess
Pier. Even though we did not have our luggage tags prior to
departure, they were tagged by the porters and arrived very
efficiently in our stateroom. Check in was simple and speedy, since
priority is given to wheelchairs. Upon entering the ship, passengers
are greeted by a long line of cabin boys at attention. They take
hand luggage and escort passengers to their cabins, how elegant,
just like the golden era of famous “Blue Riband” passenger liners.
The MSC Poesia is designated Keel S32 , designed by De Jorio
International of Genoa and built in Aker St. Nazaire Shipyards,
France. Embedded in her keel are two gold coins: one from the Aponte
family and one from the ship builders, as a tribute to their
collaboration. The Poesia is 964 ft. long, 106 ft. wide, her draft
is 26 ft. and she weighs 92,400 tons, with a cruising speed of 23
knots. She has 1,275 cabins and 72,000 sq. ft. of Public Areas.
Sophia Loren is Godmother of the MSC Fleet and christened the Poesia
April 8, 2008 in Dover, England. Each MSC ship displays on her navy
blue funnel the starred rose wind compass once used by ancient
The Poesia is poetry in motion. This extravagantly decorated ship
evokes memories of last century’s liners (circa 1960s) where modern
art intersected with furnishings. The many armless contour chairs
throughout the ship and the bold use of repetitive geometric
patterns create the feeling of moving in a modern art museum. Yet,
the natural lines of the Zebra Lounge on Deck 6 are welcome.
Moreover, this lounge is reminiscent of the Zebra Room of the
elegant Olympia ship, on which Vincent in the spring of 1956 made
his first transatlantic voyage, from Napoli to New York. What
follows is a deck by deck description of the 13 Public Decks which
are all named after famous Italian Poets.
Decks 1 through 3 are non public areas.
Boccaccio -- Deck 4, at mid ship and prow are the accesses to
tenders, aft is the galley.
Petrarca -- Deck 5, from mid ship to forward are all passengers’
staterooms and the Medical Center. Mid ship are Le Rendez-Vous
Reception Desk and bar, then the Foyer and aft is Le Fontane
Restaurant. The Foyer is three decks tall with clean modern lines
shiny brass rails and glass etched to simulate ocean waves. It also
has the ubiquitous starlight ceiling found throughout the ship.
Dante -- Deck 6 is all passenger areas, forward is the Teatro Carlo
Felice; toward mid ship is the Poker Room, Zebra Lounge, duty free
shops and boutiques and aft is the Palladio Restaurant (with a
picture of the Venetian villa, Palladio’s “La Rotonda“).
Manzoni -- Deck 7, forward is the theater balcony, then toward mid
ship is the Casino Royal, the Library with fine wood and comfortable
leather chairs, then there are the Sushi Bar, Cyber Café and the
Photo Arcade. Perhaps the most elegant and interesting place on
board is “Il Grappolo d’Oro” Wine Bar with its two arcades of wine
history and informative vetrines. The 89 or so larger than life
sepia photos of life at the end of 19th century documenting the
vinous cycle and those people who participated in wine making are
enthralling. But, alas there were no identifying plaques. Perhaps
this display was meant to symbolize all vineyards of yesteryear. In
the second corridor are a series of massive wooden tables surrounded
by substantial black leather chairs. The combination screams
solidity as does the elaborate curved bar.
Tasso -- Deck 8, Ungaretti -- Deck 9, Carducci -- Deck 10,
D’Annunzio -- Deck 11 and Leopardi -- Deck 12 are all passengers’
staterooms. Most are outside cabins, 1000, with only 275 inside
cabins. There are 17 wheelchair accessible (12 inside, 2 ocean view
and 3 balcony).
Foscolo -- Deck 13 (yes, unlike most other lines the MSC has a Deck
13) forward is the MSC Aurea Spa, toward mid ship are the Pirana
Bar, the Coral Bay Spa and pool area, and the Cayo Levantando Pool
Area. Aft is the Villa Pompeina Cafeteria with Pompeian art work
reproduced on canvas screens. All the way aft is L’Obelisco
Ristorante (a la carte).
Pascoli -- Deck 14 forward has cabins. Mid ship is the jogging track
and aft is the youth area with Disco, Virtual Games, etc.
Alfieri -- Deck 15 forward are suites with balconies and a
wheelchair accessible cabin (ours), aft is mini golf and
Sports -- Deck 16 forward is the Solarium and aft the Sports Center.
This ship is beautifully appointed and very luxurious. The area
which needs improvement is in the comfort of the physically
challenged passengers. Thresholds should be flat or properly ramped.
From our cabin to the dining room, we had 7 thresholds to traverse
and each bump causes physical discomfort to anyone using either a
wheelchair or walker. The wheelchair accessible cabins, public
bathrooms, and egresses to the promenade and the open decks of 13 &
14 need automatic door openers.
There are four sets of elevators/lifts: one forward, two mid ship,
and one aft. They are of various sizes and most have narrow doors.
The forward set had three small elevators and one, portside near our
stateroom, large enough for the wheelchair; we usually waited for
this one, rather than brave the others.
Wheelchair accessible cabin #15025 on Alfieri Deck 15 is forward
port side, the first cabin near the elevators. When entering on the
left is a long desk/mirrored vanity with six drawers. Next to it is
the huge bathroom with a 4’x4’ shower with fold away seat. There are
safety rails all around. Next is the triple armoire, with two
sections for hanging clothes and one section with a private safe and
three shelves, then a small mini bar and refrigerator. There is a
narrow single chair, armless and one low hassock ottoman.
Straight ahead is the king size bed, flanked by two night stands,
each with three drawers and a reading lamp. The décor is modern, red
carpeting and drapes with black accents. Two huge bolsters are at
the head of the bed. Three pictures by Raimondo Briata, dated 2007,
decorated the walls. One is titled “Red Rain,” the next “Red Sky
City,” and the third “Flow.” The colors complement the décor.
There are sliding doors to the huge balcony (20 ft. x 8 ft), which
has a rattan set of a table and two chairs. Our fantastic cabin
stewards Wayan and Adi added a chaise lounge to it for Vincent. The
balcony is covered, providing shade and shelter from the elements.
Wayan also procured a small stuffed chair with arms, for our
comfort. Alas, no chocolates on the pillows at night.
SERVICE & FOOD
This cruise had 2,800 passengers and 980 crew, we were told that 30%
of the crew are from the Island of Bali. They were extremely
pleasant and polite. Upon arrival on board, the crew was lined up on
both sides of the entry in their snappy short jacketed (Bell hop)
uniforms ready to escort passengers with their hand luggage to their
cabins. This is a nice touch, reminiscent of the Costa lines of last
century, and it makes passengers feel pampered. Despite the crew
being shorthanded, service was pleasant and prompt.
When contacting the Reception desk, there was a language disconnect
at times. For example, we called for breakfast menus for in cabin
were told that they would be delivered the next day. We tried
explaining that we wanted the menus tonight for breakfast the next
morning. It took three calls to set the message straight, but the
menus were delivered to the cabin in fifteen minutes.
The food is excellent on MSC. Normally, we have breakfast in our
cabin. Only Continental breakfast is served: rolls, brioche,
croissants, toast and cold cereals, fruits, juices, coffee, tea, and
hot chocolate (hot chocolate was not on the menu, but we wrote it in
and it was delivered). If you want American style breakfast, it is
available in the Buffet and the Dining Room.
The Luncheon menu in the restaurant is huge: fried calamari, Greek
and Cobb Salads, chicken wings, Italian antipasti, fruit plates,
soups, fish, steak and hamburgers. Pasta dishes are also available.
Dinner we had at a table for four shared with Henry and Mary Ann
from New Jersey. It was always very pleasant and informative, since
they had several MSC cruises behind them. We usually judge the food
by the quality of the bread: Excellent, well cooked and hot and
fresh bread sticks daily.
The piece de resistance in desserts was the Grand Parade of the Baba
au rum cakes! Another night there was also a Baked Alaska Parade.
Desserts: cannoli, cheesecakes, bread and rice puddings, fruit and
cheese plates and ice creams and sherbets.
For us the portion sizes were perfect. We had terrific service in
the Palladio Dining Room from Asst. Maitre D’ Antonio Ferraiuolo,
even to an update on the International Soccer scores (Napoli vs.
Chelsea). Our waiter Bobby Kurniawan and his assistant Gede Suardana
were quick and efficient—Great
This cruise was a special Baseball Greats Invitational. There were
Baseball Hall of Fame players who participated in pitching contests,
trivia contests, story telling, autograph sessions, question and
answer sessions, and memorabilia sales.
The Cruise Director Maddy was MC for the shows in the Carlo Felice
truly beautiful room with deep royal purple seats and excellent
acoustics. MSC presented several spectacular shows: “Stars on
Broadway” featured Mimma Barra, an excellent soprano, and Giuseppe
Fedeli an accomplished tenor. “Follies Barock” was a presentation of
the Entertainment Team. Also “Extraordinaire” and “Isha”, “Little
Italy” and “Sam” featured the MSC singers and dancers.
The buzz on the ship was continuous about the Russian gymnasts and
their amazing balancing act, and two other performers—one
on a bicycle and the other with a ladder. All three acts were
remnants of old circus days. There were also the usual standards:
Captain Raffaele Pontecorvo’s cocktail party, Culinary
demonstrations by Executive Chef Vincenzo, Wine Tastings, etc.
The MSC Poesia is an ebullient ship with many attractions.
PORTS OF CALL
Day 1. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Depart 6:00pm
Day 2. At Sea
Day 3. At Sea
Day 4. St. Thomas, USVI Arrive 7:00am Depart 7:00pm
Day 5. San Juan, Puerto Rico Arrive 7:00am Depart 5:00pm
Day 6. At Sea
Day 7. Nassau, Bahamas Arrive 10:00am Depart 6:00pm
Day 8. Ft. Lauderdale, FL USA Arrive 7:00am Debark 8:00am
Since both of us have limited mobility, we requested wheelchair
assistance for debarkation. A crew member came to our cabin at
8:00am and accompanied us through a steep gangway to collect our
luggage. After passing through customs, our son Marcello picked us
up, and we were home in less than half an hour.
Throughout this elegant ship there are varieties of special plants,
trees and floral decorations of preserved real foliage which must
have been initially beautiful; however, after four long years these
decorations look shop worn and battered. In Mary’s professional
opinion, they should be renewed with more lively ones.
Perhaps an inspection of the ship in regard to wheelchair mobility
and access to various places should be conducted with the assistance
of a specialist in this matter or by touring the ship in a
wheelchair to identify the problem areas which should be made
wheelchair friendly. The major problems are thresholds and the lack
of automatic door openers in specific access areas.
This was our first cruise on a MSC ship and it was a nice one.
Although we would recommend this ship for the general public, we
would not take another cruise with MSC, unless something is done to
correct the inconveniences for wheelchair passengers. We hope that,
at least for the projected ships, MSC will make them more wheelchair
friendly than the Poesia.
We look forward to our next cruise on our old favorite the Grand
Princess, March 17th and some future cruises on Princess, RCI and
Norwegian Cruise ships, yet to be determined. Happy Cruising!
Photo: MSC Poesia At
Anchor © CruiseDiva.com
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