For a trip that had so many pieces – the one I have just come home from – was about as perfect as it could be.
The “home base” was the MSC’s (Mediterranean Shipping Company) lovely and very modern Poesia for a 17-day cruise from departed Genoa, Italy, through the Mediterranean into the Atlantic, down into the Caribbean, with calls at four ports and then into Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. The ship will do Caribbean cruises during the winter out of Florida. We were on it earlier this year for a two-week Caribbean cruise and fell in love with the ship.
The name Poesia can be roughly translated to mean “poem of the sea”. The ship is only four years old and is large at 968 feet long and 93,000 gross tons. It carries 2,500 guests in lower beds. Aboard you will find several decks that are devoted to public space, such as two dining rooms, two specialty restaurants, one is Japanese and the other is an a la carte very up-scale restaurant. You’ll find a very large and beautiful theatre holding more than 1,200 people on two levels with a Broadway type stage. Lavish live shows are presented here on most evenings with large casts of singers, dancers, acrobats, magic shows and more. I particularly enjoyed the classic music, which included favorite songs from opera.
Also onboard are a very large and beautiful spa, two swimming pools and several deck games. There is also a large casino for your gambling pleasure; a smoking room laid out in rich leather chairs and couches and named the Alfred Hitchcock lounge and displays photos of the famous director and his stars.
There are a host of very fine retail stores available with reduced prices on name label goods.
You’ll find a fine collection of bar/lounges on several decks when you are thirsty. On the pool deck there is also gelato available when you require a sweet.
The Poesia is Italian through and through and the service reflects the gentle Italian style of rapid service and friendly smiles.
The cuisine served in all restaurants compares well with the finest restaurants. The only problem is to not gain too much weight with so much food and very delicious deserts.
The staterooms are beautifully laid out and decorated. Most have a view of the sea with balcony. We spent a lot of time on our balcony reading and enjoying the sounds of the sea. For a November transatlantic crossing we wondered if the seas might be rough with a few storms to sail through. The fact is we enjoyed wonderful weather with very calm seas. Some days were like sailing on a lake.
We had three days at leisure after arrival in Genoa, which we thoroughly enjoyed. Genoa is a major city in Italy with a population of more than 600,000 and is loaded with history. Our hotel was the NH Marina Hotel Located right at the harbor which is vast. From the hotel we could see many yachts, cargo ships and passengers vessels coming and going. We were also only a block away from the Maritime Museum with displays going back 600 years of seafaring history. We were also close to the older downtown section of Genoa which was interesting to walk around.
On our first free day we hired a car and driver to take us south along the coast to visit a couple small towns and villages nestled against the sea. The next day we traveled by train south to Florence to revisit some of the famed spots we had seen last year while in Italy. We made a point to once again see the famous “David” and various paintings surrounding the statue as well as other points of interest. Lunch here was special in a typical small Italian restaurant.
Later in the afternoon we boarded the train again to Pisa where the famous Leaning Tow is located. After viewing this masterpiece it was back on the train again headed to Genoa.
The next day was Sunday, the day we were to board the MSC Poesia bound for Florida. It was about a three-minute cab ride to the dock where the shining ship was docked and waiting for passengers to check in and board.
This process was very easy. An attendant asked to see our room key and then escorted us to room 10107 on deck 10. This was to be our home for the next 17 days with seven port stops in between.
Just before sailing at 4:30 p.m. we participated in a mandatory safety at sea drill where all passengers were present. We were given detailed instructions on what to do and where to go if there were a problem during our voyage. This took about 20 minutes and it was now time to cast the lines and move slowly out of Genoa Harbor into the Mediterranean.
When we returned to our room the luggage had arrived and we commenced unpacking and moving into our quarters.
At noon the next day we arrived at Barcelona, Spain after sailing along the coast of Italy and France. We selected a city tour to once again enjoy the sights of this really beautiful city. We particularly enjoyed the time we had to spend at the Gaudy-designed Cathedral in the center of the city. Gaudy’s architecture was quite unusual and his buildings can be identified all over the city. We also did a little Christmas gift shopping.
In the evening we began sailing again headed for a city I have wanted to visit for many years, Casablanca, Morocco. Most of us remember the movie that came out in 1943 with Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains. The plot surrounded characters that frequented a club named Rick’s Place ran by an American during the Second World War. I know the film was made in Hollywood, but wondered how the real Casablanca looked.
After a day at sea, we sailed into the harbor of Casablanca where we docked. We chose a tour which included a tour of Casablanca, a city of more than five million people and then headed about 150 miles south to the city of Marrakech, with a population more than a million people. We were surprised to see rich farms and cattle rather than desert. Marrakech is called the “Pearl of the South” by Moroccans. We saw some of the city’s major sights such as the Saadian tombs and the magnificent late 19-century Bahia Palace and gardens. In fact, we were able to tour some of the palace rooms. Nearby, walking through the famed covered flea market we enjoyed lunch in a private patio near the Bahia Palace gardens. The lunch was typically Moroccan and delicious. Afterward, we were lead through the crammed market place which had snake charmers, acrobats, jugglers, storytellers, magicians, musicians and peddlers of traditional medicines. This was most interesting to say the least. After a few very interesting hours in Marrakech we returned in the ship in Casablanca. A long day, but a very informative one. For those who loved the movie Casablanca you might be interested to know that close to the harbor area is a rather large club named Rick’s Place.
After another day at sea-the Atlantic-we cruised to a most beautiful island belonging to Portugal, Madeira and the city of Funchal. Madeira’s five-century-old capital is said to have been named Funchal because of the abundance of fennel that was growing here. The city is situated along the coastal area and buildings and homes are built up the hills giving almost everyone a beautiful view of the ocean. It enjoys a wonderful climate being more than 700 miles off the West African coast and is enjoyed a s a holiday destination for Northern Europeans.
We chose a tour that took us around this city to several interesting locations as well as the downtown area. Decided to have lunch in town rather than return to the ship. We hired a taxi with a driver who spoke good English and who took us to a memorable seaside seafood restaurant. The sea was just across the street. Our waiter thought we would enjoy the seafood plate. We were amazed when it arrived to find it all on a very large and fancy plate containing several cooked fish, clams and shrimp and other selections from the sea. We were also served a large salad and breads. I have never in my life seen a seafood display at one table. We ate heartily enjoying every bit. Afterward, we continued in the taxi to see more beautiful homes resting on the side of green hills.
Funchal now has more than 200,000 residents and they seemed to be very much enjoying their colorful, beautiful city. The setting for this city is almost perfect! No wonder many Europeans come here for vacations.
During the early evening while enjoying dinner, the MSC Poesia slipped away from the dock and by this time it was almost dark and we could enjoy the dramatic lights of the city as we headed south to the Caribbean, which was 2,633 miles away. Our sailing time would be five days. Five days to get some rest, read a couple books and enjoy our balcony and the sounds of the sea.
Next week, we return to the MSC Poesia as it voyages south to four islands in the Caribbean before arriving in Florida.