MSC Poesia Cruise Review
Dining and bars on MSC Poesia
MSC Poesia has two dining rooms--Ristorante Le Fontane and Ristorante Il Palladio--with assigned tables and two seatings at dinner. (On our voyage, dinner's first seating began at 6:30 p.m., and the second seating was at 9:00 p.m.)
One of the dining rooms--Le Fontane during our cruise--also serves breakfast and lunch, with open seating from roughly 6:30 a.m. to 10 a.m. and for a couple of hours at midday. (Lunch hours vary, depending on whether the ship is at sea or in port.)
Le Fontane and Il Palladio are elegant rooms with a mixture of large and small tables. The serving staff are mostly Indonesian, and our waiter--a man named Sudiana--took obvious pride in his work. (He also had an interesting background: One evening, he confided that he'd been a professional folk dancer in Taiwan before entering the cruise business.)
Dinner is a leisurely affair, with five or six courses from a multilingual menu that changes each night. You won't go wrong by choosing the chef's recommended regional menu (which might be from Emile-Romagna one night and Perugia on another), but plenty of other choices are available, including low-fat/low-calorie dishes and always-available items like grilled chicken breast or steak.
Food quality is mostly good to very good, although some items could stand improvement. (Vegetables are a bit overcooked for our tastes.) Pastas and risottos are outstanding, in our experience--we can't imagine how hundreds of people can be served pasta al dente at the same seating, but MSC Poesia's pasta chefs never failed to impress us.
One nice touch at dinner is the changing selections of breads: In addition to the usual (and excellent) breadsticks and rolls, each night's bread plate has a regional or specialty roll or bread slice.
The Villa Pompeiana Cafeteria is the buffet-style restaurant where most of MSC Poesia's passengers go for breakfast and lunch. It's located on Deck 13, aft of the swimming-pool area, where the views are stunning for passengers who are lucky enough to get tables next to the floor-to-ceiling windows.
At breakfast, the cafeteria tries to satisfy the tastes of its multinational audience with everything from cold cereals and breakfast breads (doughnuts, so-so croissants, good hard rolls, excellent German-style rye bread) to cheese, herring, and cooked items such as sausage, bacon, eggs, and potato cakes. We're fond of MSC's unsweetened baked apples, which are both tasty and healthy.
Lunch has something for nearly everyone: hot dogs and hamburgers; pizza slices; meat, fish, and vegetables on the steam table; pasta dishes; an array of salads; sliced or whole fresh fruit; and a dessert buffet with assorted cakes, mousses, and cookies.
You won't encounter whole lobsters or foie gras in the serving line, but neither will you go hungry, and you can have a good meal if you stick with what the Villa Pompeiana Cafeteria does best: pasta, seafood salads, and the chef's surprise of the day (usually something like roast turkey, pork loin, or caramelized ham).
Although you can find water and crushed-ice dispensers near the entrance doors, the custom--at least in the Mediterranean--is to order a drink or a bottle of mineral water from one of the waiters who circulate through the cafeteria at lunch. Mineral water is fairly cheap, and it's available in frizzante (with gas) or naturale (still) versions. A water package (see below) cuts the cost even further.
The Villa Pompeiana Cafeteria is also used for afternoon tea (accompanied by small sandwiches, cakes, and cookies) and a late-night buffet with a different theme every evening.
Don't miss the "Buffet Magnifique" on the second-to-the-last night of the cruise, where the kitchen staff show off their watermelon and vegetable artwork, butter sculptures, and ice carvings until passengers stop taking pictures and dive into the desserts.
Our only complaint about the Villa Pompeiana Cafeteria is the difficulty of locating a place to sit: We always managed to find a table, but it sometimes took a while.
At night, the Ristorante L'Obelisco on Deck 13 serves Italian food in an elegant setting. During our cruise in 2009, the fee for dining in L'Obelisco was € 18 per person, and reservations were required.
Another extra-cost venue is the Kaito Sushi Bar on Deck 7, across from the Card Room and Library. On most days, it's open from noon to 4 p.m. and again from 6 p.7m. to midnight. You pay according to what you eat (as you'd do in Tokyo), and Japanese sushi chefs are constantly preparing fresh delicacies.
Il Grappolo d'Oro Wine Bar on Deck 7 is another place for meals and snacks: It's normally open from about 4 p.m. until 1:00 a.m., and you can order a variety of cheeses and cured meats with your wine (as you might at an enoteca in Italy). Prices are reasonable, and the atmosphere is elegant.
You can buy reasonably-priced gelato at an ice-cream and coffee bar on Deck 13, near the pools.
MSC Poesia also serves freshly-made pizzas and kebab in the cafeteria after 7 p.m., with modest prices that may have been introduced to discourage stoking up up on pizza margherita or gyros before the late seating at dinner.
MSC Poesia has a room-service menu, but--unlike some ships--it charges for sandwiches and most other items that are delivered to cabins. Breakfast is an exception: You can order at no charge from a limited Continental breakfast menu which you hang on your doorknob before bedtime. Checkboxes let you schedule delivery from 7:30 to 10 a.m. (Times are approximate--the menu lists 15-minute delivery windows--and when we had breakfast in our room, the waiter arrived a few minutes early.)
Like all cruise ships, MSC Poesia is well-equipped with bars such as the Bar dei Poeti (shown at left), which has live piano music, or the port and starboard incarnations of Le Rendez-Vous Bar, which--like many neighborhood bars in Italy--serves espresso, hot chocolate, and pastries from 6 a.m. until midnight.
The Zebra Bar may be MSC Poesia's most over-the-top drinking venue, with its black-and-white striped decor. If you eschew alcohol, skip the booze and head for the chocolate bar along one wall of the Zebra Bar, where you can buy hot cioccolato and slices of rich chocolate cake.
Most bars close by 1 or 2 a.m. (in a few cases, even earlier), but the bars in the Casino Royal and S32 Disco keep going until the last guests have gone back to their cabins.
MSC offers a dizzying choice of cocktail, beer, wine, soft-drink, and water packages, as well as a "vitamin package" (smoothies, milkshakes, and non-alcoholic cocktails) and an "ice-cream package" (10 cones at the gelato bar). Savings can be substantial, and the wine packages--available for the Le Fontane and Il Palladio restaurants--include liter bottles of mineral water.
Most drinks packages are available at embarkation or on board the ship, but some are offered to guests of specific nationalities at the time of booking.
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