What you immediately realize with MSC Poesia is that this is a different experience than Americans are accustomed to on a Caribbean cruise.
But that same authenticity could make this a once-and-done experience for the uninformed. You need to know what you're buying before you get there - and that is ... an Italian cruise, complete with a European attitude from crew members and passengers alike.
Americans visit Italy every year, immersing themselves in the genuine experience ... savoring the food, the culture and the people. To really enjoy this ship, just understand that MSC is bringing Italy to you.
An informed cruiser usually ends up a happy cruiser.
MSC Cruises - MSC Crociere, if you speak the language -bills itself as "the most modern fleet in the world" with 10 of its' 11 ships - including MSC Magnifica in March 2010 - built since 2003, at a cost of $7 billion.
MSC Poesia is a gorgeous ship with an understated elegance, superior live entertainment every night in the main theater and some of the best desserts - especially the cheesecake - on the seven seas. MSC prides itself in having the cleanest fleet in the business and this ship is meticulously maintained.
The Italian and other Mediterranean dishes are excellent, and the different carving station meat served each day at the Villa Pompeiana Cafeteria is tender and juicy. But some passengers said they want more variety than the single American entrée offered nightly at Le Fontane and Il Palladio restaurants; or the hamburgers and hot dogs served every day at Villa Pompeiana along with various pastas and salads.
And be aware that an American staple - lemonade - is not served in either of the dining rooms or the cafeteria, only water and ice tea.
Where MSC Poesia stands out is the live shows at the elegant Carlo Felice Theatre. Standard cruise fare calls for shows twice on a seven-day cruise. On this ship it's a different show every night of a five-night cruise - each about 45 minutes long.
Although there is no live orchestra, the dancers are a cut above those on mainstream cruise lines; the two vocalists - especially the powerful voice of Mimma Barra - may make Simon Cowell rethink his putdown of cruise ship entertainers; and the costumes and sets are colorful and first rate.
The shows - ranging from the Las Vegas funfest "Sin City," to a journey through Italy sung entirely in Italian, to whimsical offerings of "Atlantis" and "Euphoria" - are a mix of singers, dancers and other talented performers including acrobats and a high-energy juggling act.
Again, the all-Italian language show may be too much for some Americans. An hour after the show, Bob from Texas is on an elevator telling a friend: "They were singing in some foreign language and I didn't understand a word they said."
As you stroll along the decks of MSC Poesia, whether it's through the black-and-white striped Zebra Bar, past the Kaito Sushi Bar or one of the duty free stores; or relaxing in the soothing delight of a massage at Aurea Spa, you'll hear Italian spoken by crew and passengers alike.
Wherever you dine, including the L'Obelisco specialty restaurant or the pizzeria, you'll taste Italian.
And when you're done with your cruise, you'll probably say, "That's Italian." Whether you'll be happy with that depends on what your expectations were from the beginning.