For all of the traveling I’ve done, up to this point I had never really even considered a cruise. But when cheap plane tickets led to a summer in Europe, my husband and I decided to give it a shot since we were near such great destinations. We originally planned to wait until the very last minute to book but then I found an American Airlines offer that was too good to pass up; triple the miles for every dollar spent with their cruise agency. And that is how we ended up on the MSC Poesia sailing round trip from Venice, Italy with stops in Bari, Olympia, Mykonos, Athens, Sarande and Dubrovnik.
Without a doubt the highlight of the cruise was visiting the ports. They were all pretty spectacular but Bari, Italy, Mykonos, Greece and Dubrovnik, Croatia were our favorites. They were just so scenic and absolutely gorgeous (and easy) places to stop. We knew very little about most of the ports but were able to hop off the boat each day and book tours with the competing tour companies outside the terminal gates. We completely avoided the ridiculous prices that the cruise itself charges for excursions and effectively avoided most of the crowds. In Athens we actually had a guided tour with only 10 people and we beat the crowds everywhere we went. In Dubrovnik we had finished the old town before the mass of people from the cruise ship even arrived.
Equally impressive on this cruise was the staff. I honestly had no idea what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised by how courteous, kind and thoughtful the staff were. I also enjoyed that there were staff members from all over the world. I used my Spanish more on the cruise than in most places we travel and had some great conversations with the staff about where they are from and what brought them to the ship.
For all of the relaxation and enjoyment we had there was one sore spot; the other guests. Don’t get me wrong; some of the people were lovely. But there were a number of people on this ship that acted like inconsiderate assholes. They cut the lines, couldn’t seem to say excuse me in any language and generally acted like rules didn’t apply to them. I think MSC could do a much better job of managing guests in general, starting with actually calling people out when they see them break the rules. For example we saw a family of five bypassing a line full of people, myself included, waiting to be seated for lunch. Apparently they were too good to stand in line and not one staff member said a thing to them. But I can understand how that can be hard to police. The trouble is that it negatively affects the guest experience for those of us actually waiting patiently in line. In another instance I saw a near fight break out over a lounge chair. Some people place towels over lounge chairs then walk off for hours at a time leaving a bunch of people without a place to sit. It seems some people would benefit by reading a few children’s books before they set sail so they can be reminded that sharing is caring and all that good stuff.
As a side note, my husband and I opted for the Aurea experience which we paid more for, but shot us to the front of the line in some cases (priority boarding and disembarking) and upgraded our dining options. I would say it was definitely worth it. It also came with a 50-minute welcome massage for each of us, a private sun deck for those with the Aurea experience, and was all-inclusive with meals and drinks (including alcohol). I probably would have tried to strangle someone if not for this package.
So what’s your favorite cruise liner? I’m ready to book my next cruise. Comment below.