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Know before you go: An MSC Poesia cruise is a decidedly Italian experience

There’s still time to book a cruise on Italian ship MSC Poesia sailings from Ft. Lauderdale.

Just don’t expect what you’re accustomed to on a Caribbean cruise. MSC Poesia is a different experience, but that doesn’t mean you won’t enjoy this Italian dish.

Just about everything on the 93,300-ton ship is Italian. The Il Grappolo d’Oro Wine Bar serves only Italian wines. Italian regional specialties can be found each night in both dining rooms. The pizza is genuine. And the gelato … is molto delizioso!

However, it is that authenticity that concerns some Americans stuck in standard cruise mode. The remedy is to educate yourself before you go and decide if you’re ready for the wonderfully different offerings on MSC Poesia.

Americans visit Italy every year, soaking up the experience … savoring the food, the culture and the people. MSC Poesia brings Italy to the Caribbean.

MSC Cruises is the cruise industry’s self-proclaimed “most modern fleet in the world” with nine of its’ 10 current ships built since 2003. MSC Magnifica becomes No. 11 when it debuts in March.

MSC Poesia is a beautifully elegant ship with superior live entertainment every night in the main theater and some of the best desserts at sea. MSC Cruises prides itself in having the cleanest fleet in the business and this ship is meticulously maintained.

The “White Glove Service” where passengers are taken to their staterooms upon boarding the ship for the first time is a very nice touch.

Although the Italian and Mediterranean dishes are authentic, and the different carving station meat served each day at the Villa Pompeiana Cafeteria is tender and juicy, more variety would be appreciated on the American side of the menu in the main dining rooms and the cafeteria.

And where’s the lemonade? That American staple isn’t served in either of the dining rooms or the cafeteria, just water and ice tea.

Where MSC Poesia stands out is the live shows at the elegant Carlo Felice Theatre. Standard cruise fare calls for two different shows 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.

There is no live orchestra, but the dancers are a cut above those on mainstream cruises. The two vocalists – especially the powerful voice of Mimma Barra – may make “American Idol” icon Simon Cowell reconsider 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 small-town Americans. An hour after the show, one passenger is overheard 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 or past the Kaito Sushi Bar; or while 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 to start.

NOTE: MSC Poesia sails from Ft. Lauderdale through April 24 before returning to the Mediterranean on a 19-night transatlantic voyage on April 27.

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